Late Night Line-Up (partially found Beatles "Abbey Road" special; 1969)
An illustration of The Beatles used during the "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" sequence.
Status: Partially Found
Late Night Line-Up was a pioneering British television discussion program broadcast on BBC2 between 1964 and 1972. On Friday, September 19th, 1969, the program devoted an entire 33-minute show to highlight the then-upcoming Beatles album Abbey Road. The program featured short music videos featuring abridged versions of the album's songs (except Oh Darling, I Want You (She's So Heavy) and She Came In Through The Bathroom Window). The program is significant for being the earliest known example of a pop/rock album being represented as a music video and being commissioned by The Beatles themselves as a visual representation of the Abbey Road album.
The special was produced in cooperation with The Beatles' company Apple Corps to promote their album Abbey Road, which was to be released the following week of the program's air-date. "The Beatles approached us", the BBC told the Daily Mirror. "It seems they often watch the program and they like the way pop music has been covered visually." Rowan Ayers, the editor for Line-Up, said that he planned to "illustrate the music with captions, film sequences and electronic devices."
Ayers met with The Beatles at Apple Corps to discuss the project. According to Ayers's account of that meeting, although John Lennon was "laconic" and George Harrison seemed "lost in thought" it was Paul McCartney that showed enthusiasm for the show. Coming up with "plenty of suggestions and ideas" of the program. Ringo Starr too showed interest and asked Ayers questions about the production and its production crew Rowan Ayers wrote a letter written to the buyer of an animation cell from the "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" animation. The letter titled "Background To The Signed Caption" detailed the making of the TV special. Ayers recalls "We had a fortnight's notice...and we used all kinds of devices, like captions and film, and the Beatles were wild about it.” The program was directed by Granville Jenkins.
The program first aired in the U.K. on Friday, September 19th, at 10:55-11:30 pm on BBC2 and then again on Saturday, October 10th, in a full repeat at 11:25-12:00 pm.
To this date, the entire program has not surfaced and the master tapes are presumed to have been wiped by the BBC.
On the day of the first screening, newspapers published reviews of the program. Two contemporary reports were more descriptive of the show's content than critical of the program itself. The Coventry Evening Telegraph said: "Many different kinds of visuals will be used including film, captions, studio elements and electronic color devices." The Daily Mail's description was similar.
In George Melly’s 1970 book Revolt Into Style. Melly was critical of the program:
The new puritan climate at the Television Centre (and Broadcasting House come to that) will allow pop music within limits, but seems totally against allowing any overt display of teenage revolt. Modified psychedelia is acceptable. The Late Night Line-Up show Colour Me Pop is a pretty, but rather than an empty exercise in this genre, and the film made to present the Beatles’ new LP Abbey Road was equally innocuous, but the ideas seem, for the moment at any rate, back under lock and key.
On October 20th, 2019, Steve Hoffman Forum user dormouse shared an uploaded video from Dig Media that contained what is believed to be 53 seconds of silent footage from the TV special. The footage is black and white and appears to be captured from a TV monitor. The same footage with audio was uploaded to Dig Media’s Twitter account. It was relieved by Dig Media on their user account that the complete program was on that video. Footage containing audio was uploaded onto their Twitter account.
The video shows the "Come Together" segment that has the song playing over the A Day In The Life promo video. The song crossfades into a still from the Beatles' final photo session which transitions into the "Something" segment. "Something" features a female dancer, superimposed psychedelic lighting and effects. DIG Media had the footage because they were administering the video library left by sixties’ counterculture figure Jack Henry Moore. The footage appears to be sourced from an off-air recording from one of the two BBC2 broadcasts.
On February 12th, 2020, Dig Media posted another still shot from their Twitter account from the "Silver Hammer" segment.
In April 2020, DigMedia replied on the recovered footage's YouTube video to a question about the video's content. DigMedia said that they were still working on recovering the footage and that remaining footage was in need of "serious recovery". They also said that the restoration plans had been slowed down due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
According to recollections of people how saw the program at the time; the program began with a copy of the Abbey Road record spinning on a turntable. Each song was linked by footage of the album playing on a turntable. Fans who saw the special and other publications have reported the special was a mixture of stock footage, art-house films, dancers, animation and exclusive Beatles footage.
The footage used was the (then unreleased) promotional video for A Day In The Life. It was originally meant for an abandoned Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band TV special planned for 1967. The footage sent to the BBC was silent, and the track Come Together placed over it by the show's producers. The version of Come Together used is a unique mono mix that has never been commercially released. In 2017, the Come Together segment was released in full from a 16mm print on the TMOQ bootleg DVD The 1967 Sgt. Pepper Commemorative Issue.
After a transition from a photographic still (taken from the group's final photo session), the "Something" segment featured dancer Jane London. London danced to the song with psychedelic images superimposed over her. After the program aired, a different official promotional music video would later be created to promote the song's single by Apple Corps. This video would feature The Beatles themselves.
Maxwell's Silver Hammer
The "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" segment was said to be an animated short featuring Maxwell and The Beatles. The segment also featured a shot of an illustration of The Beatles (with their mid-1969 hairstyles and breads) dressed as a barbershop quartet. The heads of the illustration moved to emulate the group signing. This effect was achieved by the director by cutting out the heads, reattaching them on pin and using a fan off screen to make the head wobble. In December 2004 a signed drawing from the "Maxwell's Silver Hammer” segment of the program put up on eBay for $2.25m. The drawing was listed again on eBay for $1 million USD in October 2019. This time it ended with no bids. It included a typed letter from the editor of Late Night Line Up, Rowan Ayres detailing the history of the cell and the special.
In April 2020, the drawing was listed again, this time with starting bid of $3.5 million. The description listed more information about its history:
THE LAST SIGNED ARTWORK BY THE BEATLES MAXWELLS SILVER HAMMER ONLY PIECE IN EXISTENCE
You MUST Message me before Bidding with full identification details, mobile number etc name or your bid will be immediately deleted and you will be blocked.
This incredible piece of Historical signed Art was accepted for sale by Sotherbys but I did not agree to the terms of sale. The Beatles contacted me years ago showing an interest in buying this back even writing to me but I did not sell. This was arranged through their EMI agent Michael Heatley and the original of this letter also comes with this piece.Sadly the split of the band has been captured uniquely and forever immortalised, John and Ringo signing in black marker and George and Paul in blue pen this incredible feature the split of the band has never been seen before or captured in such a way. The framers markings are on the back D.N 29/1 29th January 1970
Only 1 second of footage has so far been recovered from the Jack Henry Moore tape by DigMedia. A still of this frame was posted on their Twitter account. The frame shows a cartoon Maxwell swinging his arm that has a hammer as a hand. The Maxwell segment came after "Something" as it does on the Abbey Road album.
Reportedly, footage from the first moon landing was used during this segment.
While it is unclear what where footage could have been used on which track, other films reportedly used during the special included Scott Barlett's experimental film On/Off (1967).
Songs Used in the Special
The correct order of songs is yet unknown. From the footage released by Dig Media, "Come Together" is followed by "Something", just like on the released Abbey Road album.
- Come Together
- Maxwell's Silver Hammer
- Octopus's Garden
- I Want You (She's So Heavy) (reported by viewer)
- Here Comes The Sun
- You Never Give Me Your Money
- Sun King
- Mean Mr Mustard
- Polythene Pam
- Golden Slumbers/Golden Slumbers (reprise)
- The End
- The Vinyl Guide Episode 179: The Story of Abbey Road with Bruce Spizer. Retrieved 21 Oct '19
- Wikipedia page on Late Night Line-Up. Retrieved 21 Oct '19
- The Telegraph Obituary page on Jack Henry Moore. Retrieved 21 Oct '19
- The Complete Beatles Chronicle, Mark Lewishon
- The Beatles Book, Hunter Davis, 2019, Ebury Press, ISBN: 978009158633
- Radio Times. 17th January 1970.
- The Coventry Evening Telegraph, Friday, 19 September 1969
- The Daily Mail, Friday, 19 September 1969
- Dig Media’s Twitter post that has the footage with sound. Retrieved 21 Oct '19
- Dig Media Twitter post on the program. Retrieved 11 Oct '19
- Dig Media Twitter post on the program. Retrieved 21 Feb '20
- Review of the TMOQ DVD set. Retrieved 21 Oct '19
- eBay listing for an animation cell from the "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" segmet. Retrieved 21 Oct '19